Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This is why SEALS are the best, period.

Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has just put up long excerpts from a New York Daily News column written up by Malcolm Nance, a longtime Navy officer and trainer of SEALs (SEa, Air, Land) – arguably the very best in military special forces – in which the honorable officer mentions his opinions on the CIA memos. This is worth the read. Brayton hasn't posted a link to the source, so here're the bits he quoted.

I have been engaged in the hunt for al-Qaeda for almost two decades. And, as I once wrote in the Daily News, I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people - as we trained our own fighting men and women to endure and resist the interrogation tactics they might be subjected to by our enemies. I know waterboarding is torture because I have been on the giving and receiving end of the practice.

This was during the last four years of my military career, when I served at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school. Working there, and helping protect our servicemen and women, was my greatest pride. We especially emphasized escape, because captivity by al-Qaeda's Jihadis would be severe, if not, final. Our methods of instruction were intense, but realistic and safe.


Now, at long last, six years of denials can now be swept aside, and we can say definitively: America engaged in torture and legalized it through paperwork. Despite all the gyrations - the ducking, dodging and hiding from the facts - there is no way to say that these people were not authorizing torture. Worse yet, they seem to have not cared a wit that these techniques came from the actual manuals of communist, fascist and totalitarian torturers. It is now clear how clearly - how coldly - Bush's lawyers could authorize individual techniques from past torture chambers, claim they came from the safe SERE program, and not even wet their beds at night. That many U.S. service members over the years have died as a result of these same techniques was never considered.

This is about more than one tactic, waterboarding, that has gotten the lion's share of attention. As a general rule, interrogations without clearly defined legal limits are brutal. Particularly when they have an imperative to get information out of a captive immediately. Wearing prisoners out to the point of mental breakdown; forcing confessions through sleep deprivation; inflicting pain by standing for days on end (not minutes like in SERE); beating them against flexing walls until concussion; applying humiliation slaps (two at a time), and repeating these methods over and over.

If it were aimed at a U.S. Pilot, soldier or diplomat, I have no doubt all those defending the Bush Administration now would label these tactics torture. At SERE, I learned and taught that breaking the prisoner for compliance and instilling "learned helplessness" was our enemies' terminal learning objective.


Working in the Middle East, daily I face the questions, disbelief and accusations about how Americans could violate the human rights which they once championed. No less infamous a personage than Osama Bin Laden himself has taunted us on this matter saying, "So I say that freedom and human rights in America have been sent to the guillotine with no prospect of return." That we can be lectured by a mass murderer on what should have been an unassailable pillar of American values is unbearable.

Have no doubt: As a counterterrorism practitioner, should I find bin Laden I will cut his heart out with a plastic spoon. That would be about justice and revenge, not interrogation. But that job - finding him and bringing him to justice - has been made incalculably more difficult for our soldiers and intelligence officers around the world by these documents and what they mean.

If America wants to win the war against al-Qaeda, we have to start anew. The Obama administration will have to forget about the pressure they are getting from Bush administration officials and Republicans to hide all further releases of torture memos they themselves defended for years.

Then, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury - who, as Bush administration legal officials, have documented their own complicity to explicitly authorize crimes - will have to be calmly prosecuted, based on the evidence, with all the due process rights to which they are entitled. Who knows, they may well be acquitted.

The sooner the better, as al-Qaeda will recruit hundreds if not thousands more young men to fight, kill and gladly die once they absorb the depth of hypocrisy America stooped to over the last eight years.

Either we investigate our past errors and clean up our ship or we "look forward" and give Al-Qaeda a singular propaganda victory that will kill Americans for years to come.

It's always amazingly refreshing to read something on the Internet that I can safely say I agree 100% with every single line written or spoken. If this morality is present even in a hardened military man like this good Mr. Nance, how can it be so very lacking in Congress and the government?

I hereby nominate Malcolm Nance as the Head of the Council for Slapping Idiot Government Officials and Lawyers Over the Head. Oh, and for next President.


Post a Comment

You can post any sort of feedback or questions you like, just as long as you abide by the rules detailed in the About section. =)